This is a review of the book Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2, by Steve Stockman.
There have been a number of books written about U2 and religion, I have reviewed a few of them here. It is difficult to separate them, as most use similar methods and come up with similar results. They use the title of a U2 song as the title of the book, or as chapter titles. They often have a little blurb about band history, for the people reading the book who don’t know the band (and really, how many of those people are there?). They treat each song as though it is a bible verse, quoting Bono like they would quote scripture (which in some ways Bono would really enjoy, and some ways he would hate). And usually they conclude that for a rock and roll band these guys are really kind of religious, so they can’t be all bad.
Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 follows many of these tropes, and ends up with many of the same conclusions. But it feels different to the others in one important respect, which is the focus of the book. In most of these kinds of books, religion is to the forefront and the author is trying to prove their biblical knowledge by mixing in some street cred with U2. Those books often feel like you could substitute U2 for any other band that has religious overtones, or just as easily remove the musical link completely and just talk about religion. This book feels much more like it is about U2, with religion being added on, or perhaps just lightly brushing up against the religious aspects without trying to shove it down your throat on every page.
The author is a minister, and he appears to be experienced enough to introduce religion in a subtle way, telling you quite long and interesting stories about the band (surprisingly enough, there were a number that I had not heard before, or had forgotten long ago), and then bringing in the religious aspect in a way that makes you go “oh yeah, that’s absolutely right.” He’ll tell a band story for two or three pages, or more, then bring in a reference to religion that seems perfectly apt. An example is the Everything You Know Is Wrong chapter, twelve pages long and pretty much only covers religion in reference to The Screwtape Letters. I say that slightly with tongue in cheek, because much of the chapter is about religion, but the first time I read it I actually went back through and had to read it again to understand how he brought the religion in.
So, is that sneaky or underhanded? No, of course not. The author gets his intent across in a most interesting way. Just as Jesus would do allegories about people, to get them to try and think about things, so does Mr. Stockman. I’m not very religious, but I found myself inspired several times throughout the book based on the tales and the way he wrote them. Very effective in a show, don’t tell kind of way.
For the reasons above, I think this is one of the better books I’ve read this year on U2, and the rating reflects that. Not the best book overall, but certainly the best one about U2 and religion.
My rating for Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 (book): 6 / 10